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HATHORION (Photo credit: Amadeus Varadi Hellequin)

I’ve just finished reading Patrick Rothfuss’ excellent sophomore book The Wise Man’s Fear. At nearly a thousand pages, it’s a long read, but well worth your time. If you aren’t familiar with his work, get the first book in the series,  The Name Of The Wind. Once you’ve digested that, get The Wise Man’s Fear. Rinse and repeat for as many times as it takes him to put out book three.
While there are a lot of things to recommend this lovely series, what concerns us for this post are a handful of quips the main character makes about poets.The main character, Kvothe, is a first-rate musician and lyricist. But as he says many times, and with venom, he is no poet. To Kvothe, poets are young noblemen in love and pretentious layabouts without the whit to create anything more worthwhile. Now, I don’t think Rothfuss feels this way himself, as he includes a well-built piece of accentual verse, and even has one of his characters speak in rhyme.
Even so, our fictional bard may have some insight into why poets so often have a bad reputation.
The bard sees himself as a story-teller. Someone who creates things that are both useful and beautiful. While he uses rhyme and meter, it isn’t, as he says, “words for the sake of words.” Kvothe puts his words to a greater purpose. Rhyme and meter add utility. In his mind, the poet’s work isn’t as good because it has no utility.
But why should art have utility? Is a painting any less beautiful because it’s not used as a table?
Perhaps our bard needs to see his art as work, and so is offended by the pitiful work ethic his poet friends show. They pine about on river banks while he puts pen to page.
Now where have we heard that before? Butt in the chair, five hundred or a thousand words a day. Output, output, output. When you count your progress by the page, the poet’s handful of lines must look like laziness.
I know from personal experience that it’s not. In the time it takes to crank out a week’s worth of five hundred word days, you can finish two or three poems, depending on length and complexity. Page count to line count will never be apples to apples comparison. The two are entirely different pieces of fruit.
Or art. Even though prose and poetry both use words to make art, as mediums they’re about as different as an oil painting and a collage. There’s nothing inherently better about an oil painting.  Once you understand that, which one you use comes down to personal choice. Why not try both?

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